Whether you’re a practised homeworker or still thinking about setting up an online bubble-tea shop from your front room, here are some secrets to help you succeed…
Zero commute time might seem like a benefit to working from home, but that journey has the advantage of getting you into ‘work-mode’. Something that can be a struggle when your home is your office.
Start your day by leaving the house and walking a mile. Turn around, walk back, and let yourself into your ‘office’. You’ll immediately be more efficient. At the end of the day, ‘commute’ home, which will help you switch-off from work.
Even if yours is a ‘kitchen table firm’, create a dedicated office space, with a door that you open after your commute and close behind you at the end of the day. This physical barrier to your laptop acts as a psychological barrier to your ‘business brain’ and makes it easier to bring your focus to your family / friends / television.
If you are cohabiting with attention-demanding others, that door indicates the start of a professional space to be treated with respect. This is important if they – and you – are to believe that despite being a homeworker you are doing a ‘proper’ job.
Tricia Dixon, Director of consultancy firm JB Medical says: “just because you’re working from home, your work and your workspace are as valid as those of people working in a more traditional office. You have to really believe this.”
As a homeworker, you’ll find it easy to work long hours without taking a break. (Stopping to put another load of washing on doesn’t count.)
We know this is bad for productivity so set an alarm clock to go-off every two hours in the room farthest from your desk. When that bell rings, get up, switch-off the alarm and take a break.
Ben Blomerley, Co-Founder of AskHerFriends feels that “working at home can be really undermining of your focus.
“You don’t have colleagues and bosses around to see whether you’re cruising Facebook or Netflix all day. And you’re often aiming for a large and indeterminate goal (‘I want to make this business succeed’) rather than a specific target (‘make 50 calls today’).”
In ensuring he focuses on what matters, Ben “breaks tasks down into really narrow and clear portions”, a strategy also employed by Karolina Sieler, Founder/Owner at FBIZZ Women Entrepreneurs Hub. The best way to do this, advises Karolina, is to “prepare your own job description and divide the tasks into administrative ones and the more creative ones.
“You then have to identify a way of monitoring them to make sure that you stay on the right track… I use tailor-made spreadsheets, as well as a combination of online tools such as Asana and Toggl.”
To avoid the twin homeworking pitfalls of wearing pyjamas all day and barely moving, Suzie Godfrey, Director of The Sweet Reason Company puts her gym kit on every morning: “Once it is on, I have to do some kind of exercise that day, even if it is only one short workout.”
Suzie squeezes exercise into her day whenever she can. “I run home from the school drop-off, for two reasons: for fitness, and also because it is quicker than walking, so I have more time to work. Even if it is only a win of seven minutes a day, in a week that is over half an hour. When you are running your own business, every minute counts.”
Tax… yaaaaawwwwwwwn. Yes, I know, but Jon Beer, Chief Technology Officer of start-up software firm Zapnito stresses that the working from home tax rules will save you money, yet many of us don’t follow them to our full advantage. In the UK, you could even claim for a share of your council tax. Visit gov.uk or your local equivalent for details.
Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer famously claimed that being present in the same place as your co-workers is critical to collaboration, and it is indeed easy to become less collaborative when homeworking.
One solution is to embrace online collaboration tools like GitHub, Slack and Trello, to share your ideas and work with colleagues and customers.
What’s more, as a homeworker you are your own IT support. Nobody is coming to help you install your printer, so take an IT class and get geeky!
Working at home can be the greatest thing that ever happened to your career or can make you feel trapped in an inescapable office. How do you make working from home work for you? We’d love to hear your tips!